Private space flight company SpaceX successfully returned a rocket to Earth following a satellite launch Monday after two earlier attempts failed.
The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at about 8:30 pm (0130 GMT Tuesday), and its first stage returned back to the launch pad approximately 10 minutes later.
The second stage of the vehicle continued on its mission carrying 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for the company Orbcomm.
The flight was the company's first since a SpaceX rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) in June exploded, a blow to NASA's increased reliance on commercial providers for deliveries to the station.
Two previous SpaceX attempts to land a used rocket on platforms floating in the ocean failed, but rival Blue Origin, the space venture led by Amazon head Jeff Bezos, last month announced the successful test flight of its own reusable rocket.
The development of a reusable rocket is considered key in lowering the cost of space flight as NASA turns over the transport to the ISS of goods, and eventually astronauts, to private companies.
Since the retirement of the US space shuttle fleet in 2011, the US has relied on Russian Soyuz craft to take astronauts to the station and hopes to begin using US commercial spacecraft operated by Boeing and SpaceX to allow it shift its own attention to reaching an asteroid and eventually Mars.
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